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John Constantine has literally been to hell and back. When he teams up with skeptical policewoman Angela Dodson to solve the mysterious suicide of her twin sister, their investigation takes them through the world of demons and angels that exists just beneath the landscape of contemporary Los Angeles. Caught in a catastrophic series of otherworldy events, the two become inextricably involved and seek to find their own peace at whatever cost. Based on the DC Comics/Vertigo Hellblazer graphic novels.
For more about Constantine and the Constantine Blu-ray release, see Constantine Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on October 28, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, Shia LaBeouf, Djimon Hounsou, Max Baker, Pruitt Taylor Vince
Director: Francis Lawrence
» See full cast & crew
Constantine Blu-ray Review
Should you sell your soul to acquire a copy of 'Constantine' on Blu-ray?
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, October 28, 2008
I guess God has a plan for all of us.
What if Heaven and Hell thought little more of human souls than as a tally, points earned in a game of life, the outcome if which will decide the fate of the planet? That is the question raised in Constantine, a quasi-interesting 2005 film that puts its own spin on religion and action but fails to endear itself in either regard, coming off as a straightforward, unmemorable picture that, despite a few original elements and ideas, falls flat in most every regard. Another in an ever-growing list of dark, spiritually-themed films, Constantine takes audiences along for a ride replete with some nifty action, good special effects, and a boisterous sound design, but also offers mostly forgettable characters and a plot that fails to hold one's attention throughout. It's another film that banks on style, a "coolness" factor, to win over audiences, but at the end of the film, audiences may find themselves asking one another, "who cares?" Constantine is one of those movies that will enjoy a long shelf life playing several times per month in an edited-for-content-and-length version on cable television. Because of its star power, heavy marketing, several moderately high-profile home video releases, and airplay on television, it is a known commodity, a film that settles into a comfort zone where it is neither lambasted nor lauded, simply existing and entertaining viewers when there is nothing better to watch.
John Constantine (Keanu Reeves, The Matrix) is a demon hunter with the unique ability to see both demons and angels, beings from above and below that are embroiled in a struggle for the soul of humanity. On Earth, "half breeds," those with angelic or demonic blood or ancestry, passively influence souls to either work for good, or succumb to temptation and sin, providing to Lucifer another soul in his "contest" with God. When the twin sister of detective Angela Dodson (Rachel Weisz, The Mummy) commits suicide, she is denied a Catholic service and Angela seeks the help of Constantine to determine what external forces may have played a role in her death. Constantine deals with his own problems, both a fatal physical ailment and his failure to placate God and earn a place in Heaven. As the story unfolds, it is discovered that Angela's fate has been set, and a series of events leads to her direct involvement in what may spell the beginning of the end of mankind.
Though it may be thin on substance, Constantine impresses through its fine special effects. The film features some unique creature design, not to mention a chilling version of "Hell" that is reminiscent, in part, of something straight out of a nuclear fire as seen in Terminator 2. Here, "Hell" is depicted as the world as we know it, but ravaged by fire, populated by demons in varying stages of decay or dismemberment, a world of unspeakable horrors and ghastly imagery, a world where, as it is once described in a the film, two minutes plays out as if they were an eternity. A brisk wind blows around, in some ways allowing the effects to blend in and mask a few shortcomings, but it also serves a thematic purpose, increasing the tension but also adding another layer to the surreal atmosphere. Likewise, various "half breeds" seen throughout the movie, sometimes in partial to full states of demonic appearance, are spectacular. One gory scene features a splattered head, with green rather than red innards strewn out across the floor, the head's eyes still moving and the mouth still speaking. It's disgusting, chilling, and impressive all at once, as are several other scenes throughout.
Keanu Reeves plays his character, John Constantine, with minimal heart or spunk. The character is dull, though, and deliberately so. Constantine is a man unique in the world, seeing not only demons and angels, but fighting them alongside his personal demons. He is a man with a troubled past, an agonizing, cancer-ridden present, and no future, at least not the future he envisions. Constantine does the Lord's work, but for selfish reasons, hoping to gain favor with Him to save his own soul, not because he necessarily believes in a higher purpose or cause. The character is well-drawn and intriguing, and Reeves' performance, while not electrifying, seems to capture the downtrodden, depressed, demoralized character well. He seems, in certain ways, reminiscent of Arnold Schwarzenegger's character in End of Days. Both fight the supernatural, unwittingly, in an attempt to save humanity from the emergence of Satan, and in the process come to know the true meaning of faith and the importance of self-sacrifice in the name of righteousness.
Constantine Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in 1080p high definition and framed at 2.35:1, Constantine never stands out as a top-flight high definition reference-grade disc, but it never completely disappoints, either. The transfer is a somewhat dull and soft one. Early scenes are heavy on diluted colors with a strong golden or yellow tone. While the tone shifts throughout, the soft, the slightly undefined imagery remains consistent. Bight colors and strong primaries are not frequently found in the movie, and the transfer handles the somber tone of the film well. Facial detail is rather flat and minimal. Some background details are nicely rendered, however, an example being a scene in chapter six that takes place in a moldy, dirty, run-down apartment. The grime on the walls, electrical sockets, and cabinets all show up rather well. Likewise, the special effects stand out; various grisly scenes never falter in showcasing the painstaking graphic nature of the imagery, and the film's numerous creature or demon effects look sharp and detailed. Flesh tones are pasty throughout, some slightly rosier than others, but most are sometimes ghastly in appearance. Black levels are fairly strong. Constantine doesn't make for startling high definition imagery, but the transfer is acceptable and never insults the visual senses, either. Fans should be pleased with the results.
Constantine Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Constantine's Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack is devilishly good. This soundtrack features hard-hitting effects, the first coming only moments into the film as a man is smashed by a speeding car. Minor effects, like the ambience of the arid Mexican desert, sound realistic with a nice spread of sound around the soundstage. Effects during the exorcism to open the film are loud and immersive, the shattering glass and excitement of the scene heightened by a solid sound design that translates well to the TrueHD experience. Discrete effects are fluid and immersive, covering the soundstage at every degree mark. From a series of ringing telephones heard distinctly in several speakers in chapter eight to various rainstorms heard during the movie, the soundtrack always offers something to please listeners, and the surround speakers rarely earn a minute off. It is the action sequences that shine in Constantine. Take a scene in chapter nine as Constantine fights a creature comprised of thousands of insects. Every speaker instantly comes alive and jumps at the opportunity to relish in the action, the result an immersive experience that places audience not just in the front row, but practically in the middle of the action itself. Bass is heartily employed by the film, particularly during the film's sequences taking place in "Hell." There are never any dialogue reproduction problems of note. Constantine's soundtrack isn't divine, but it ascends to the upper tiers of Blu-ray soundtracks nevertheless.
Constantine Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Constantine arrives on Blu-ray as a feature-packed special edition. First is an In-Movie Experience, a picture-in-picture track that is a "one-stop shop" for movie fans who don't have the time to sort through the remainder of the bonus materials. Some information here carries over from the other supplements and it provides a solid overview without delving into very nook and cranny of the film. The pop-up window comes and goes, sometimes remaining off for several moments. The film's two commentary tracks feature director Francis Lawrence and producer Akiva Goldsman on the first while writers Kevin Brodbin and Frank A. Cappello man the second. Lawrence and Goldsman, and Goldsman in particular, are highly entertaining. The piece comes off almost like a duo hosting a morning radio program; it is light and lively but at the same time substantive and worth the listen. The second track isn't as much fun, but it's still a cut-above the average commentary track. They discuss the deeper character traits and motivations of the characters, changes to the script, the special effects, and more. They enjoy watching the film, react to some of the more spectacular sequences as if they had never seen the film before, and delight in sharing their thoughts on the film they've written.
Behind the Story is a series of 14 featurettes, presented in 480p standard definition, that look at nearly the entire filmmaking process. Channeling Constantine (8:00) examines the uniqueness of the John Constantine character and the casting of several other roles in the film. Conjuring Constantine (15:43) focuses on the adaptation from the graphic novels on which the film is based. Director's Confessional (5:35) features Francis Lawrence discussing the expectations and pressures of directing a major studio film. Collision With Evil (4:39) looks at Constantine's original opening sequence that was never filmed and the creation of the impressive effect that now opens the film. Holy Relics (8:22) is an examination of the film's props and the deliberately old, worn look given to many of them, and offering a brief history on the ones that receive the most attention in the film. Shotgun Shootout (2:03) looks at the making of one of the film's primary action sequences. Hellscape (11:59) focuses on the special effects and the creation of the visuals for the film's Hell-centric sequences. Visualizing Vermin (9:36) focuses on the evolution of a demon made of various insects and small creatures. Warrior Wings (3:18) is a glimpse at the creation of the angel wings seen in the film. Unholy Abduction (5:47) is another behind-the-scenes look at the making of yet another of the film's major effects sequences. Demon Face (2:01) features the process of applying the demon make-up to the Balthazar character, and the piece also features an interview with actor Gavin Rossdale. Constantine's Cosmology (5:21) looks at how Constantine fits into the mythos of hero tales. Foresight: The Power of Pre-Visualization (13:56) takes an in-depth look at these animated storyboards that help the filmmakers more easily create the look they desire. Lastly, A Writer's Vision (1:18) is a series of pre-visualization images, created by Frank Cappello, to help him better get a feel for the story.
Thirteen deleted scenes and an alternate ending (480p, 17:42), with optional commentary from director Francis Lawrence, are next. Concluding the supplements on disc one is a music video (480p, 4:16) entitled Passive by Perfect Circle and the film's teaser (480p, 0:55) and theatrical (480p, 2:22) trailers. Disc two of this set contains a digital copy of the film. This digital copy, played back on a second generation iPod touch and the included Apple headphones, offers surprisingly robust sound, decent right to left and left to right directionality, adequate dialogue reproduction, and strong effects. The picture, too, is well above average with blacks that don't block up as much as, is the case with other digital copies. It also features solid color reproduction and a decent amount of fine detail. Banding can be seen in several places. Not that anyone is looking for high quality in digital copies, but this one is excellent compared to the others out there.
Constantine Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Constantine is just another in a long line of films that are worth watching but won't leave a lasting impression, engender any sort of desire to see it multiple times, or speak to viewers on any level. It offers eye candy in the form of neat special effects, decent action, and a fairly well-written lead character, but the film never gels, and the result is a throwaway movie that is well-suited to late night and weekend marathons on cable superstations. Warner Brothers' Blu-ray release of Constantine features an adequate video transfer, a rip-roaring soundtrack, and plenty of bonus materials. Overall, this is a solid package for a mediocre movie and is worth a rental for most viewers, but ardent fans of the film should not hesitate to add Constantine to their Blu-ray collections.
Constantine: Other Editions
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